Preparing for sixth form – choosing the right subjects for A Level
Sixth form study is such a huge jump from GCSE, choosing subjects to study for A Level can be quite a dilemma. With recent changes to the syllabus and assessment format of A Levels to a linear system, this decision is perhaps trickier than ever.
Here are a few tips on how to start.
Choose subjects you are passionate about. A Level work is quite a step up in difficulty, so engagement, interest and passion for a subject will be key to battling through the challenges of studying it. Choosing a subject just because your friends are doing it, is not usually a good plan.
Read the A Level subject and syllabus booklet carefully, to get to grips with what the course actually entails by way of content, teaching and assessment format. You’ll probably have twice as many lessons per week for each subject in sixth form, so you need to go for subjects you will enjoy.
Not all subjects are considered equal by universities. Take at least two subjects that are valued as either facilitating or ‘hard’ subjects by the Russell Group of universities. Avoid taking subjects that are too similar, for example Business Studies and Economics. ‘Soft’ subjects (those deemed to be ‘less effective’ preparation for degree study by the top universities) should be chosen with care, knowing your pathway beyond school.
Ensure you have your bases covered if you have any particular course or career aspirations for university and beyond. Some courses such as Medicine or Engineering require A Levels in particular subjects so you will need to bear this in mind when making your final selection. Check grade expectations and whether any particular subjects are required, before submitting your final selection. If you are unsure of university courses at this stage, keep your options open by the choices you make.
Challenge yourself in your choices, but don’t over-stretch. Perhaps better to excel in three subjects, in tandem with perhaps an EPQ and wider extra-curricular commitments, rather than push for four subjects and see a dip in final grades as a result. Consult teachers and listen to their advice. They know both your academic capabilities and the demands of sixth form study, so are best placed to advise you.
BTECs offer a more vocationally based qualification in more practical subjects, so can suit some students better. Check university entry requirements for reassurance about grade targets in these subjects in tandem with A Levels.
When considering your UCAS application, top universities may well look at your GCSE grades, in tandem with your A Level grade predictions, so work hard in year 11 and aim for the best grades possible.
University is not the only pathway to employment. Work experience and wider opportunities within the sixth form programme can open other doors that might be more up your street. Keep an open mind.
If you need some help to review university courses, entry requirements and hence make your sixth form subject choices, give us a call to discuss setting up a conversation with one of our team of expert consultants.
Here are a few useful links to facilitate further research